At this point in his life, Nick McGill was supposed to be a member of the working world full time, his decorated competitive career at Whitworth over.
But worldwide pandemics have a way of rewriting the best-laid plans, and McGill decided last summer to reorganize them.
He would still work – he has since finishing his undergraduate degree in May 2020 – but he wouldn’t play football in the fall, allowing him to train more for one last track and field season.
He capped that season on May 28 with a third-place finish in the decathlon at the Division III national meet in the same state, North Carolina, where his 2020 season came to an abrupt end at the D-III national indoor meet.
“I didn’t know at the beginning of (this) year if we were even gonna have a conference meet or nationals,” McGill said, “so I was really hoping we would and I was very happy with the meet and how it was ran. It was as close to normal as possible.”
After Day 1 of the decathlon, McGill was 11th overall. But on Day 2 he recorded lifetime bests in discus (127 feet, 7 inches) and javelin (208-11) to score a season-high 6,896 points.
McGill is now a three-time D-III All-America decathlete with finishes of third (2021), sixth (2019) and fifth (2018).
Lucas McGill, an assistant track and field coach for Whitworth, was there to support his younger brother and left impressed yet again.
“I remember vividly telling (head coach) Toby (Schwarz) my junior or senior year, ‘if you could get Nick, he’ll be better than I am for sure,’ ” said Lucas McGill, who also competed at Whitworth in the decathlon from 2014 to 2017. “He had that kind of grit and determination.”
“A lot of kids come out of high school with a lot of talent and potential and for one reason or another they fall flat,” Lucas McGill said. “For (Nick), he worked really hard to reach that potential.”
As high schoolers at Eastmont in East Wenatchee, the McGills didn’t specialize in one or two sports. They played seasonally.
“That was a big philosophy I learned from my dad: It’s basketball season so you’re playing basketball,” Lucas McGill said, with football in the fall and baseball or track and field in the spring. Summer, he said, they could pick a sport.
Lucas McGill came to Whitworth as a quarterback, then switched to tight end his sophomore year. But eventually he turned his full focus to track and field, captaining the team his junior and senior year and competing in the high jump and decathlon. It was around then his brother’s recruiting process began.
“My recruiting process was not very typical,” Nick McGill said. “It was more that my brother was on the team and I did track and field in high school and liked it, so I came out for the team.”
Recruited to play football, Nick played 30 games as a wide receiver for the Pirates from 2017 -20, catching 63 passes for 862 yards and nine touchdowns. He also returned a handful of punts and kickoffs.
He also participated in track and field, starting as a long jumper and eventually participating in his first decathlon at the Sam Adams Classic in March 2017 at Whitworth. Nick finished second with 5,407 points; Lucas, a senior, finished fourth with 5,083.
A month later, Nick posted a score of 5,656 at the Northwest Conference meet, good enough for fourth place. He also finished second in the 4x400 and the high jump.
Over the next three years, Nick McGill grew into a leader for the Pirates, one who both led by example and carried the influence to actually get others to follow him – a crucial distinction to Schwarz, the Pirates’ coach for the past 25 years.
“If you ask a group of college students, ‘How do you lead?’, 99% will say you lead by example. My response is, ‘who’s following your example?’ ” Schwarz said. “You have to have influence as well. (McGill) always did the right thing, but he also had influence.”
McGill is the type of person who will find the quieter athletes, Schwarz said, maybe those who aren’t the best on the team, and he will ask them how they are doing, how school went that day: He will make them feel welcome.
“You can’t create a person like that. You can’t buy a person like that,” Schwarz said. “Over the years I’ve had people like that, and they’re just special.”
McGill said he thought more about his influence on others this season when he was enrolled in an MBA program at Whitworth while also working and training.
“I just think with having a year under my belt in life, a year of being married, a year of being in the professional field, I was just a little more conscientious, a little more mature,” McGill said. “And I think with that maturity comes more of an awareness of (my) impact on the team.”
On the trip to North Carolina for the D-III nationals, McGill had “a little entourage,” Schwarz said, including assistant coaches Joey VanHoomissen, Jeff Rahn and Lucas McGill; as well as Doug and Debra McGill, Nick and Lucas’ parents; and Izzy (Clark) McGill, Nick’s wife who also competed in track and field at Whitworth.
It was a group similar to the one who went with McGill to Indoor Nationals in March 2020.
But unlike then, when the group was caught in stasis as the pandemic led to shutdowns worldwide, this time McGill got to compete – and then return to work again when he got back to Spokane.
“Thankfully I’ve been super blessed by the office I work for,” McGill said. “When I left, my boss told me to go enjoy it. You can work full time the rest of your life.”